"Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week": Conscripting Feminism into the War on Terror
Posted on: Friday, October 26, 2007
US feminists found themselves in strange company this week. In days of campus activity labeled "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" (IFAW), conservative writer David Horowitz and his fellow travelers issued a call for an end to the oppression of women in Muslim nations.
It may be ludicrous to hear about women's oppression from IFAW spokesperson Ann Coulter—who has called for an end to women's suffrage here in the US. But beyond pointing out the obvious hypocrisy, progressives need to respond to Horowitz's message about the oppression of women living under political Islam. Otherwise, we leave him with a powerful rhetorical weapon because Islamists do call for the subjugation of women. All religious fundamentalists do. Just ask IFAW spokesman Rick Santorum, the born-again ex-Senator and anti-abortion fanatic who thinks that women in the US should be kept out of the workforce.
"Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" could be laughed off, except that it echoes the rhetoric of official US policy. Since the US bombing of Afghanistan in 2001, the Bush Administration has resurrected the hackneyed colonial notion that its military intervention is intended to save Muslim women from their oppressive societies. As Laura Bush said shortly after 9-11, “The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women.”
Few Middle Eastern women believe this. In Iraq, for instance, women know that their work for equal rights has been undermined by US intervention. In general, the US has preferred to support authoritarian leaders who systematically violate women’s rights. It's easier to get a tiny elite or a single strongman to implement US policy than it is to ensure that real democracy swings in favor of US interests.
After all, if it were up to the majority of Iraqis, how many would have endorsed the country’s new US–brokered oil law, which puts Iraq’s most valuable resource at the disposal of Exxon-Mobil? How many would have opted for sprawling, permanent US military bases in their country (whose sole purpose is to enable more US military intervention in the region)? As in Iraq, the US usually ends up undermining women’s rights in the Middle East, because women’s rights are an integral part of democratic rights, and democratic rights threaten US control of the region.
Right-wing "intellectuals" like Horowitz have honed the idea of a “clash of civilizations” dividing the United States from the Middle East. But the real clash is not between “Western” democracies and “Eastern” theocracies; it is between those who uphold the full range of human rights—including women’s rights—and those who pursue economic and political power for a privileged few at the expense of the world’s majority.
In fact, there is nothing inherently “Western” about women’s rights. Women in the Middle East have a century-long history of political struggle, popular organizing, jurisprudence, and scholarship aimed at securing rights within their societies. As for the "clash of civilizations," no one is predestined to be on one side or the other by virtue of her culture, religion, or nationality. We choose our position based on our principles and our actions. Those of us who choose to stand in defense of women's rights should listen to and support women in Muslim societies who are struggling both for women’s rights within their country and for their country’s right to freedom from US domination.
Archives"Press Room" Home October 2014 September 2014 August 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 April 2014 March 2014 February 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 October 2013 September 2013 August 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 November 2012 October 2012 September 2012 August 2012 July 2012 June 2012 May 2012 April 2012 March 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 November 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 July 2011 June 2011 May 2011 April 2011 March 2011 February 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 October 2010 September 2010 August 2010 July 2010 June 2010 May 2010 April 2010 March 2010 February 2010 January 2010 December 2009 November 2009 October 2009 September 2009 August 2009 July 2009 June 2009 May 2009 April 2009 March 2009 February 2009 January 2009 December 2008 November 2008 October 2008 September 2008 August 2008 July 2008 June 2008 May 2008 April 2008 March 2008 February 2008 January 2008 December 2007 November 2007 October 2007 September 2007 August 2007 June 2007 May 2007 April 2007 March 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 November 2006 October 2006 September 2006 July 2006 June 2006 April 2006 March 2006 January 2006 December 2005 November 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 April 2005 March 2005 November 2004 October 2004 April 2004 March 2004 January 2004 December 2003 October 2003 September 2003 June 2003 April 2003 January 2003 September 2002 June 2002 January 2002 November 2001 October 2001 September 2001 August 2001 January 2001
MADRE & Our Partners Make News
Forbidden Talk - Prostitution in the Middle East (Levant TV, October 7, 2014)
Women's Organizations Fighting Against Gender-Based Violence in Iraq (Girls' Globe, October 1, 2014)
We all know about jihadists, but what about those waging an 'anti-jihad'? (Reuter, October 1, 2014)
Breaking the gridlock of climate change negotiations: learning from allies (openDemocracy, September 29, 2014)
Arab and Jewish midwives find a common language (Haaretz, September 12, 2014)